BEIJING, China (AP) -- China said Thursday it had uncovered a criminal ring planning to kidnap athletes and others at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Chinese construction workers stand in front of the National Stadium in this January photo from Beijing.
Thirty-five members of a ring based in the restive western Xinjiang region were arrested, Ministry of Public Security Spokesman Wu Heping told a news conference.
"We face a real terrorist threat," Wu said. The arrests took place between March 26 and April 6, he said.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror hijackings, China has tried to portray the simmering separatist rebellion in Xinjiang as being fueled by terrorist organizations in Central Asia and the Middle East. But evidence made public has been scarce.
Western embassies asked Beijing for more information after authorities said they broke up an attempt to hijack a plane in western China last month but so far no evidence has been provided, diplomats have said.
On Thursday, Wu said the ring was plotting to kidnap athletes, foreign journalists and other visitors to the August Games. He added that police had also confiscated almost 22 pounds of explosives and eight sticks of dynamite and "jihadist" literature in the latest raids in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.
Wu also provided further details on a second group arrested in January, alleging they had been manufacturing explosives and were plotting to attack hotels, government offices and military targets in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities.
Wu said the gang had been acting on orders from a radical Islamic Xinjiang independence group, East Turkestan Islamic Movement.While the United States has labeled the East Turkestan Islamic Movement a terrorist organization, the State Department alleges widespread abuses of the legal and educational systems by the communist authorities to suppress Uighur culture and religion.